Sjogren’s syndrome is a medical condition that affects several parts of the body that produce fluid, such as tears and saliva. This syndrome generally occurs in people within the age range of 40 to 60 years.
When a person has Sjogren’s syndrome, there will be dryness in the eyes, mouth, and several other parts of the body.
Sjogren’s syndrome is a long-term disease that may interfere with your daily activities. However, most people with Sjogren’s syndrome do not experience serious problems and can still maintain a normal lifestyle.
Patients with Sjogren’s syndrome are advised to undergo treatment as recommended by the doctor to help relieve the symptoms.
Sjogren’s syndrome causes the immune system to not work properly, which leads to the attack of healthy cells in the body instead of bacteria or viruses. This condition is called an autoimmune disease.
When Sjogren’s syndrome appears, the white blood cells attack the glands that function to maintain moisture. As a result, these glands cannot produce tears and saliva.
Most people with Sjogren’s syndrome have other autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The most common symptoms are dry mouth and eyes.
Causes of Sjögren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease. The most common cause of this syndrome is an error in the immune system, in which the healthy cell tissues are attacked.
The exact factors that cause autoimmune diseases, including Sjogren’s syndrome, are still unknown. However, there are two potential factors for a person to develop such diseases:
- Genetic factors, people with a family history of autoimmune diseases are more prone to suffer from similar conditions.
- Hormonal factors, autoimmune symptoms, including Sjogren’s syndrome, affect women more than men. Scientists suspect the possibility of the female hormone estrogen to be the cause of this condition.
People with certain types of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, are more likely to develop this syndrome.
Sjogren’s syndrome usually affects parts of the body that produce fluid – this includes the eyes and mouth. However, it may also affect other parts of the body.
When to See a Doctor for Sjögren’s Syndrome?
The condition of Sjogren’s syndrome should be consulted with a specialist in internal medicine (internist). However, who the patient consults can be adjusted depending on the patient’s condition.
Patients with Sjogren’s syndrome occurring in the eye may consult an ophthalmologist. Meanwhile, patients with Sjogren’s syndrome in the mouth may consult an oral surgeon.
The symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome are very similar to other illnesses. To determine the type of disease, the doctor will run a series of physical tests and conduct a medical interview. Common questions that will be asked include:
- Do your mouth and lips often feel dry?
- Do your eyes often itch and burn?
- Does the patient have many cavities?
- Does the patient have pain and stiffness in the joints?
After conducting a medical interview, the doctor will also conduct an examination test by looking directly into the patient’s eyes and mouth. If necessary, the doctor will ask the patient to undergo the next series of tests. The most common test is a blood test.
The doctor will take a blood sample from the patient’s vein, which will be tested in the laboratory. Blood test results will show if the patient has a lot of germ-fighting proteins or antibodies commonly found in people with Sjogren’s syndrome.
Blood test results can also show the size of inflammation in the patient’s body. This can indicate whether a person has Sjogren’s syndrome.
Patients who consult an ophthalmologist will undergo a test that measures the tear film in the patient’s eye. The doctor will drop a colored liquid into the patient’s eye to make the tear film easier to see. Subsequently, the doctor will look at the inside of the patient’s eye using a microscope.
Meanwhile, an oral specialist doctor may perform an examination by removing a very small piece of tissue from the inside of the lip. This is done in order to take samples, then test it in the laboratory. This test is also known as a lip biopsy.
Symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome
The symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome vary from patient to patient. Some patients may experience only one symptom, but some patients may experience multiple symptoms at one time.
The most common symptoms may include:
- Dry eyes. Dry eyes will itch, sting, and burn. This symptom does not always appear all the time, but it can cause an infection that can damage the cornea of the eye. These symptoms get worse when the patient is in a place with dry air, for example in a smoky or air-conditioned room.
- Dry mouth. Some patients report that their dry mouths feels chalky. However, there are also those who say that they feel a cotton-like sensation when their mouth feels dry. When the mouth feels dry, it will result in difficulty swallowing and a yeast infection around the mouth.
Sjogren’s syndrome occurs most commonly in the eye and mouth area. However, other parts of the body, such as the joints, kidneys, liver, lungs, and nerves, may also be affected.
Apart from causing symptoms in the eyes and mouth, Sjogren’s syndrome may also cause other symptoms, such as:
- Dry and itchy skin.
- Extreme tiredness
- Muscle aches and joint pains.
- Persistent dry cough
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
- Dryness of the vagina (for female sufferers).
- Swelling between the jaw and ear (salivary glands).
Treatment for Sjögren’s Syndrome
Similar to other autoimmune diseases, there is yet to be a cure for Sjogren’s syndrome. However, there are several medical treatments that can be done to reduce the symptoms.
First, you may opt to purchase medications at the pharmacy – artificial tear drops to reduce dryness of the eyes. There are also gels you can use regularly at night. The gel adheres and absorbs to the surface of the skin around the eyes.
If artificial tears and gels do not work to relieve symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatment by prescribing you medications such as:
Routine examinations with an ophthalmologist are also recommended for people with Sjogren’s syndrome in the eyes.
If the occurrence is in the mouth, the doctor may prescribe medications such as:
- Salagen (Pilocarpine).
Symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome in the mouth may also be treated by routinely chewing sugar-free gum or ice cubes, using lip balm, using antibacterial mouthwash, and brushing teeth with toothpaste twice a day.
Consuming mineral water and quitting alcohol can also help reduce dry mouth symptoms due to Sjogren’s syndrome.
Treatment Cost for Sjögren’s Syndrome
The cost for Sjögren’s Syndrome treatment varies, depending on the symptoms, the body parts affected and the treatment chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of Sjögren’s Syndrome treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Sjögren’s Syndrome
The cause of autoimmune disease, including Sjogren’s syndrome, is still unclear. However, there are numerous preventive measures that can ease the symptoms from getting worse.
To prevent Sjogren’s syndrome with dry mouth symptoms, you can try to stop smoking. Additionally, maintain good oral health by regularly brushing your teeth. You should also stop consuming alcohol and start drinking more water instead.
As to preventing Sjogren’s syndrome with dry eye symptoms, you can avoid dry air environments, such as air-conditioned rooms or rooms where there is the presence of cigarette smoke. This can help reduce dryness of the eyes. Maintain good eye hygiene by not touching your eyes with dirty hands or by cleaning your contact lenses regularly.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome
For patients with symptoms in the mouth, it is recommended to increase consumption of mineral water. In addition, regularly chewing sugarless gum or ice cubes can also help trigger the saliva in the mouth to drain properly, which helps the mouth remain moist.
Patients with symptoms in the eye can try to use a humidifier at night. On dry and itchy skin, try to use warm water when bathing,